A portrait of Shirine, Kurdish female fighter

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Like many young Kurdish women, Shirine could never imagine leaving university for the front line, but the war changed everything.

She chose martyrdom over death, and confrontation over hiding. She left fear behind and chose courage as a way to write history for her people. Shirine never expected to join the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ). After obtaining her high-school degree, she enrolled in university.

One day, she decided to visit her schoolmate who had joined the YPJ. At the time, clashes were at their peak in Ras al-Ain, which is affiliated with the mostly Kurdish-Syrian province of Hasakah. Shirine’s friend, a fighter, was on the front line in that area. She told her, “Lucky you! You’re in college!”

Shirine suggested that her friend leave the fight and return to college, but the latter firmly refused, saying, “I won’t leave Ras al-Ain. We have to resist!”

Shirine bade her farewell without knowing it would be their last goodbye. It was not long after that Shirine heard about the “martyrdom” of her friend. The news struck her like lightning and pushed her, at the age of 21, to drop out of college and join the YPJ. She wore the uniform and carried her weapon to fight the terrorist organization courageously and fearlessly.

Shirine, who had never held a weapon before dedicating herself to fighting, admitted, “I was afraid of carrying weapons.”

“It is normal to be scared of the first encounter with a rifle.” She said that the first shot was enough to break the fear and bury it forever.

“When I first held the weapon, something inside me broke this fear,” she said.

The Kurdish female and male fighters share front lines, facing the same danger and fighting the same enemy, the Islamic State (IS). Shirine, in broken Arabic, over an extended talk over the phone with An-Nahar, said, “There is no difference between men and women, as we have the same goal.”

IS is one of the most dangerous terrorist organizations, but the Kurdish fighters are showing bravery in the fight.

A female Kurdish fighter who carried out a suicide bombing at an IS gathering was highly regarded by her friends. They considered her “the symbol of holiness” and saw her as a role model — as did Shirine, who was influenced by her. The woman, whose voice showed courage and strength, asserted, “All fighters should be ready to martyr, especially since IS does not appreciate the sacredness of the body and mutilates bodies. A resistant woman is at greater risk of abuse, and this is why martyrdom of Kurdish female fighters is important.”

Confidently, she reiterated, “IS does not scare us. The militants of this organization do not know anything about Islam. They die because they expect to go to heaven and enjoy ‘houris’ [the promised women]. They do not know how to face us, and they act without any plan.”

“If it weren’t for their developed military equipment, they wouldn’t be this strong. If we had their weapons, we would have reached Afrin,” she said.

For Kurdish women, “gunshots are sacred,” as they receive tough training similar to the one that men receive.

“We had tough psychological and physical training to be able and ready to face IS with all our strength. We are trying to kill IS fighters with the bullets we have. We bought these bullets with the blood of our martyrs,” Shirine said.

Shirine is not facing great difficulty during the battles. She is trained to use weapons like the Kalashnikov, DShK (a machine gun) and grenades.

She told An-Nahar, “The fighters have secret weapons. Many of them carry a 'secret bullet' to kill themselves in case they are surrounded. They are free to use that bullet in such a case.” She said one of the toughest challenges is “that ‘horrible’ feeling when you see your comrade injured and you are unable to help or defend them. She said that in the region where she is fighting (Ras al-Ain), the female and male fighters can see black flags and IS members moving in the middle of the day.

Shirine has two brothers participating in the fight with the People’s Protection Units (YPG). She sent out a message to her paralyzed mother: “If one of my brothers or I become martyrs, don’t cry. Walk through the crowds and cheer.” She also asked her mother to give her weapon to another person who would go and fight as she did.

The courageous woman felt she had an obligation to send out a message to the international community as well: “We are fighters carrying humble weapons, but we have tender hearts. We hope you will help our people who have suffered and have been massacred.

"We hope that you won’t allow children to be killed by these murderers who have no religion or mercy." She stated in her message that the Kurds don’t intend to establish an independent state. “We just want to defend our land and honor. We really need your help, especially in Kobani,” she added, stressing that “we will only come out of this as martyrs or victors.”

A mother, sister and wife, Shirine is fearlessly rebellious.

“As fighters in the YPJ, we have never given up on our femininity. The mother and human instincts drive us to fight this terrorist organization to protect our children,” she said.

Shirine and other female fighters are standing in the face of IS militants without fear. They are ready to become martyrs, as they consider themselves responsible for their land. “What would I tell my children if I didn’t fight terrorists and left them to live under IS control?” she asked.

In brief, Shirine and her comrades have faith that they will write history.

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Found in: women, syria, kurds, islamic state
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